As I referenced in a post a few weeks ago, I’m convinced that God has placed Christian Refugees from around the world into our neighborhoods for both their benefits and ours.

I concluded the post by stating that I believe they are His gifts to help us develop a “Theology of Persecution” and to guide us through what will be completely new terrain on our journey as His people here in this country.

Apparently, what I wrote resonated with a number of people and a few of them asked me to explain what I meant by a “Theology of Persecution”.

Here’s what I mean when I use that phrase:

A “Theology of Persecution” is a Bible-based mental framework and lens through which a follower of Jesus views, interprets, and responds to persecution and related expressions of mistreatment generated against them because of their relationship with Him.

The root concept of the word persecution in the original language came from the imagery of hunting down an animal to kill it.

It basically means having hostile intent towards someone else due to religious beliefs they hold that are different than your own.  It’s expressed through mistreatment that takes the form of ridicule, defamation, exclusion, physical injury, and even putting someone to death.

Jesus referred to it regularly in His teaching to His disciples—about both Himself and them being on the receiving end of it.

He made clear that it would be an experience that was the result of walking with Him and/or declaring the truths of the Good News.

And obviously, He Himself experienced the most extreme expression of persecution possible—crucifixion and death.

The Book of Acts records the prevalence of persecution and related mistreatment in the lives of people that had surrendered to Jesus as Lord, as local churches were birthed throughout the Roman empire.

Then, based on their personal experiences and building on the truths that Jesus taught about persecution as something God may permit His adopted children to be enveloped by, those that wrote the letters contained in the New Testament also referenced it regularly.

Anchored in what I believe His word reveals and the things I’ve personally learned from Christian refugees that have suffered for their faith in Jesus, these are the foundational building blocks of the “Theology of Persecution” that I now navigate with:

1–Persecution is one of the proofs that God’s creation is not what He originally designed it to be and that He meant it when He created humans with meaningful decision-making power.

2—Persecution and mistreatment because we identify as followers of Jesus is likely to come upon us, and if it does, He has permitted it—we shouldn’t be caught by surprise.

3—It should be viewed as a validation of the publicly visible reality of our walk with Him, not as punishment for misrepresenting Him.

4—To continue to love, obey, and be faithful to Him as the giver of every good thing when all of His gifts, (including physical health and possibly life itself) are taken away, provides an absolutely unique and easily understandable means for revealing His true worth to others.

5—Accepting it and its consequences when there is an option to avoid it, could open previously closed doors and provide opportunities to share the Gospel with people that we never had access to before.

6—It provides a unique depth of connection with other brothers and sisters that God has already called to walk down the path of persecution.

7—Although it may be limited to an individual experience, when it does happen, the reality that we are part of His multi-ethnic earthly body is displayed like never before when the global church unifies in crying out to Him on behalf of the persecuted.

And yes, if you know me personally, it’s probably easy for you to tell that I’ve had to intentionally fight the urge to unpack my “Theology of Persecution” in more detail with the biblical references that it rests on.

 

Photo by Paul Skorupskas  on unsplash.com